Srinagar, Nov 6 Amid a separatist boycott, former spy chief Dineshwar Sharma, the centre’s interlocutor, kickstarted Kashmir talks on Monday and met representatives of about half-a-dozen apolitical organisations at a Srinagar high security guest house that served as an interrogation centre during the peak years of militancy in 1990s.
Informed sources said those who met Sharma at the Hari Niwas state guest house on Gupkar Road included representatives of tribal Gujjars and Bakerwal organisations, tour and travel operators, shikara owners, fruit and saffron growers and artisans.
Sharma, who has served as Assistant Director of the Intelligence Bureau in the state from 1992-94, the time when militancy was at its peak in Jammu and Kashmir, started his five-day visit to the state on Monday.
Immediately after his arrival in Srinagar, Sharma, who has a cabinet secretary rank and has been given Z security, drove in an SUV to the state guest house that was previously codenamed Papa II, a joint interrogation centre operated by the Border Security Force (BSF) until 1996 when it was shut down.
The sources said the delegation members highlighted their problems during their meeting with Sharma who listened to them “patiently”.
No representative of any political party called on him on the first day of his five-day stay in the state to start the multi-layered dialogue process.
The opposition National Conference said they were yet to receive any invitation from Sharma.
He is scheduled to stay in the valley for three days to meet political parties, socio-cultural organisations, individuals and opinion makers before moving to Jammu.
Separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yaseen Malik have jointly declined to meet the interlocultor, calling his appointment a time-buying tactic “adopted under international pressure and regional compulsions”.
Sources in the separatist camp said the officials have made attempts to persuade Geelani, the octogenarian head of the Hurriyat Conference, to meet Sharma.
“While Geelani does not oppose a dialogue process but at the same time he is not ready to facilitate a process that is aimed at delaying rather than resolving the basic issue,” said a Geelani aide.
Former Chief Minister and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah said on Sunday that he did not expect much from the new process.